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Why is it difficult to catch "Anonymous" or "Lulzsec" (groups)?

I think that something that Anonymous & other hacking groups do, is illegal and they should be arrested.

My question is - why can't FBI or IT police just get data from Twitter and trace their location? (I've chosen Twitter because they usually post there)


The bits that need to fall into place are:

  • the LEOs need to be able to subpoena that information from Twitter (that bit's easy if you're talking about the FBI, they're in the same country as Twitter and have the right to get that subpoena)
  • Twitter needs to have stored the relevant information (they probably do, at least, log what address any tweet was posted from, and its location is available when users opt in to that)
  • the LEOs needs to be able to make use of the information. This is where it starts to fall down. What if the computer that communicated with Twitter was a Tor exit node, a proxy in the Ukraine or a compromised high school desktop in South Korea? The problem has been pushed back a level: the LEOs now need to go to the next service and try and match an individual to the information they have. If that's an ISP in the same country, this is possible but time-consuming. If it's a foreign or international organisation they might not have the ability.

By the way, whether you think such activities are illegal is not as relevant as whether the law specifically proscribes them. My understanding of U.S. Law (and I'm no expert) is that AnonOps have broken some computer misuse laws.

  • Okay, but tell me: How can anonymous member DDoS someone via more than 4 proxies, for example? Wouldn't that lost its magic?
    – genesis
    Aug 18 '11 at 16:06
  • 1
    Given that for a DDoS you generally need a botnet (or a lot of volunteers...), you'd probably want to go through a proxy regardless. Aug 18 '11 at 16:25
  • 2
    @genesis, the question was about posts to Twitter, not DDOS attacks. It doesn't particularly matter if a 140 character post is slowed down a bit.
    – Mike Scott
    Aug 19 '11 at 2:08

The following papers gives a good insight on how blackhats protect themselves from their adversaries.

How to cover your tracks - The Hackers Choice

Phrackerz: Two Tales - Antipeace & The Analog Kid

Enjoy the reading :)


Let's suppose, just for a minute, that the Anonymous folks are connecting to Twitter through a VPN based in a jurisdiction that doesn't cooperate with US law enforcement, a chain of open proxies in different countries and an anonymous tunnel through Tor. What information do you think Twitter can give the FBI that will be of any use to them?

  • 1. Do you think that every member uses proxies everytime? even 4 proxies - it would slow down browsing A LOT 2. DO you think that proxies aren't tracertable?
    – genesis
    Aug 18 '11 at 16:04
  • 3
    1. They don't have to use a proxy all the time, only when in their 'Anonymous' persona - and even then, possibly only when performing suspect actions. Aug 18 '11 at 16:28
  • @genesis, I think that it's very difficult to trace through a chain of proxies located in different jurisdictions, some of which may not be inclined to cooperate with the US authorities.
    – Mike Scott
    Aug 19 '11 at 2:07

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